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Dodd's Bill Has Teeth; Will Congress Bite?

WASHINGTON ( TheStreet) -- Now that Chris Dodd has mustered up a financial regulatory reform bill that appears to have some teeth, the question is: Will his Congressional colleagues be able to pass anything that bites?

Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut who heads the Senate Banking Committee, spent months wrangling with Republican counterparts over an assortment of issues and proposals. To put it simply, Republicans and financial lobbyists wanted to water down the bill. While Democrats were willing to make some compromises, they weren't willing to scrap the Obama administration's initial concept entirely.

The two sides stood at loggerheads for several weeks. Eventually, Dodd went rogue and came up with his own legislation -- an unusual step, and one that reflects the partisanship that has taken over the halls of Congress.

Details that have emerged from the bill, which is set to be announced on Monday, paint a surprising picture: Tough rules for consumer protection and sensible delegation of regulatory powers. The Federal Reserve will stay true to its mandate to oversee the financial system broadly, while checks and balances will exist among other regulators as well.

The Fed will house a consumer protection agency -- something consumer advocates didn't support -- but the agency will have more power and autonomy than initially suggested, according to widespread reports. The Fed will also get the power to dismantle large financial institutions and monitor systemic risk. Republicans have assailed the central bank for having failed to monitor risk within its existing powers to begin with. The Fed has become a political lightning rod as a result, with Republicans wanting to limit its power, and Dodd's proposal is sure to stoke those flames.

The only apparent part of the proposal that is geared toward Republicans' preference is to form a council of regulators headed by the Treasury Department which could overturn consumer-protection rules by a two-thirds vote. Still, the consumer agency would be able to regulate all sorts of products, from mortgages to credit cards and other types of loans and products. It would have the power to reprimand financial firms with at least $10 billion in assets. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and another regulator would be responsible for overseeing banks with less than $50 billion in assets as well.
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